Willie Nelson Tells His Own Story

Country Music Legend Details Rich History in It’s a Long Story: My Life

Willie Nelson says it feels good to share his life in a new memoir — or, in his words, “flush out your system a little bit.”

The Country Music Hall of Fame member co-wrote It’s a Long Story: My Life with veteran biographer David Ritz. It’s filled with new revelations and new recollections of some familiar tales, such as waking up Patsy Cline to pitch her a song he’d recently written titled “Crazy.”

“We were at Tootsie’s Orchid in Nashville, and I had brought that song with me from Texas,” Nelson recently told CMT Hot 20 Countdown’s Katie Cook. “I just got there, and I had talked Tootsie into letting me put it on the jukebox and Charlie Dick, Patsy Cline’s husband, was there.

“We were having a beer, listening to the song, and he says, ‘Patsy has to do this song.’ I said, ‘Well, maybe one day,’ and he said, ‘No. Now. Let’s go play it for her.’

“So it was after midnight by then, and we woke Patsy up — he did — and I wouldn’t get out of the car. But she come out and made me get out of the car. I went in and sang her the song, and she recorded the song the next week.”

Growing up in the small farm town of Abbott, Texas, had a huge influence on Nelson’s guitar and vocal style. Part of those influences are evident on Django and Jimmie, his new album with Merle Haggard, that pays tribute to gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt and country music pioneer Jimmie Rodgers.

“I grew up in all of that, in all of that environment,” Nelson said, joking, “I may have talked about it in the book. I don’t know. I have to read that book one day.

“But I was always out in the cotton fields and the corn fields, working with the Mexicans and the African-Americans, and they were all singing all day long. You know, there’s nothing else to do out there but sing. So I would have a symphony out there. I’d hear some good great Mexican Chicano music over here. Then over there, I’d hear some great blues and gospel.”

As for writing his memoir, Nelson told Cook there was a simple reason for doing it now.

“I would have never done it on my own if they hadn’t started waving money,” he said. “But it turned out OK. I am glad I did it now.”